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War Impacts Israeli University, Hospital

by | Sat, Nov 4 2023

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Following the Hamas attacks on southern Israel, 500 volunteers rushed to the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev hospital in the city of Beersheba, just 40 kilometres from Gaza. They helped treat all the wounded including captured Hamas fighters.

“It’s not so simple to treat casualties and attackers in the same facility,” Dr. Shlomi Codish, the general director of the trauma hospital known as the Soroka Medical Center, told the New York Times. “But we are humans. We have to look at our values and not lose them along the way.” Dr. Codish said he wasn’t expecting any Hamas members to enter the hospital, but staff treated at least one badly wounded gunman before sending him to a military hospital.

It’s not the first time hospital staff have treated Gazans. In fact, they had been almost daily patients prior to the October 7 attacks. University president David Chamovitz said there was a regular flow of Palestinian patients out of Gaza to his hospital. Many were children needing eye surgery and treatment for conditions like cancer.

Professor Chamovitz told CBN News that a charity run by Jewish people living next to Gaza, transported the Palestinians to the hospital. He revealed that many of those good samaritans were killed or taken hostage by Hamas in the terrorist assault on Israel.

Pointing to widespread anti-Semitic protests on the streets and college campuses across the US and around the world, Professor Chamovitz observed: “It’s so intellectually dishonest, so morally dishonest, without any integrity. In what world of any type of liberal academic atmosphere is that type of behaviour considered a proper protest?”

He underlined: “We’re here to make the world a better place and our hospitals are some of the best in Israel. And if someone needs life-saving surgery, it doesn’t matter if they’re Muslim, Jew or Christian, they should get the services that they need.”

The Ben-Gurion University and it’s associated Soroka Medical Center  have borne their proximity to the violence at a huge cost. Dozens of students, staff and members of the wider university community were killed by Hamas attackers. Many lived in the kibbutzim that were invaded. Others were among the 260 mostly young people murdered at a music festival. Some are being held hostage with 240 others somewhere in Gaza.

The basement of the hospital’s administration building is being used as an elementary school and kindergarten for 75 children from the surrounding area who have been forcibly displaced by the war. They’re able to resume their studies because the basement is also a bomb shelter.

Throughout the crisis, the hospital has continued its life-saving work, providing care for all in need. Medical students with little experience are working on the frontlines of the emergency room, and other students are packaging food, coffee, clothes, and cigarettes, for soldiers, and civilians.

Classes for the 20,000 students at the university were supposed to resume last month. They’ve been suspended for several weeks which could most likely turn out to be for much longer. Dormitories are being  repurposed into barracks for reservists. A database is being built to track the community’s losses.

Even prior to their assault on southern Israel Hamas militants have launched deadly rockets at Beersheba all the time. Professor Chamovitz keeps a piece of one in his office at the university which prides itself on the closeness of its community and being a “meeting point” for different views. Many Arab-Israelis study there, and last year, the university head received violent threats for allowing Arab students to hold a pro-Palestinian rally on campus. That hostility has escalated since the Hamas attacks.

Arab students are bracing for the worst. Wattan Madi, a political science and linguistics major and a student leader in the Arab community, told The New York Times she had been attacked online and called a “terrorist supporter.” She dreads going back to class. “I can understand the pain.  Israelis are terrified with all that happened. But this doesn’t give them any legitimacy to call me a terrorist,” she asserted.

Scores of students, staff, patients and university stakeholders have died in the past month. Hospital director Dr. Codish has prepared for the next wave, ordering more mobile X-ray machines, more ventilators, more beds and syringes, and all types of new equipment. “What will come is significant military activity,” he said, referring to the ground offensive in Gaza.